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Best Restaurant Meals of 2004


docsconz
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Happy New Year to All!

2004 was for me the greatest number of meals at great restaurants that I’ve had in a single year, even though they were concentrated in New York City and Spain. The Spanish ones in particular lived up to their star billing, although NYC held its own too. To be more specific I had the good fortune to dine at two Michelin *** , one Michelin ** and two Michelin *’s in Spain and three NYT ****, a few *** and numerous **’s.

My top ten Restaurant Meals of 2004

1. El Raco de Can Fabes – September 29th?, 2004 lunch. This was an amazing meal in every aspect from food to décor to theater to meeting the man himself to the impeccable service. Even getting sick that night along with several other dining mates couldn’t dim the perfection of that meal. Overall, This might be the single finest restaurant dining experience of my life so far.

2.Arzak - Oct.2, 2004 lunch. This stands just a hair behind Can Fabes if only because the service was lesser than at Can Fabes. The food was every bit as spectacular as was getting to meet Juan Marie and Elena Arzak and getting a tour of the lab.

3. Per Se – May 20th dinner. This was a tour de force of remarkable dishes, excellent service and elegant setting. The thing setting this behind Can Fabes and Arzak was that the level of vefry successful creativity was just a notch behind the other two.

4. Sant Pau – Sept. 28 lunch. Totally outstanding and in most other years would have been number one on my list. Carme Ruscalleda’s food and restaurant are glorious.

5. WD-50 Dec. 11th dinner. To me this is the quintessential NYC restaurant that combines great tasting creative food in a very hip setting. This is also the most new Spanish restaurant that I have been to outside of Spain. Of course it is Spanish only in its creative sensibility and artistic expression on the plate.

6. The Inn at Erlowest – August 6 dinner. The tasting menu was a revelation of world class haute cuisine in my backyard. I have returned numerous times without disappointment.

7. Abac – September 27th. Another incredible meal that hit on all cylinders. This restaurant could be equally at home in NYC. I really do have to post a detailed report on our meal there. This restaurant and Chef Xavier Pellicer certainly deserves a thread of its own on eGullet. Mea Culpa.

8. Ramiro – Oct.6 lunch. This was a totally unpretentious and extraordinary shellfish feast as recommended by Miguel Cardoso. This was exactly what I was dreaming of when I planne to go to Lisbon.

9. Sushi Yasuda – December 16th lunch. One of the two finest sushi meals I have ever had or likely will ever have. This ranks slightly higher on my list than Kuruma Zushi because I think it is a better value and I felt a bit more comfortable there.

10.Aligue – September 25 Lunch. Food up there with the big boys. This restaurant in Manresa, Catalunya only lags in terms of the setting.

11. Kuruma Zushi – December 11 lunch. This was my first high end sushi ever and it was extraordinary. The price was extraordinary as well, although it was worth it. Yasuda is higher because I think it was more bang for the buck

12. Babbo – December 14th dinner. Great food, I enjoyed a feast of offal, some of which I had for the first time. The food overcame any hesitation I previously had with flying colors. This might have ranked higher on my list but for good but not superior service

13.Amma - January 22nd dinner. Still the best Indian food I have ever had as well as some of the best food I’ve ever had in a very welcoming environment. I have yet to visit Devi. That will likely be on my list for 2005..

14. Hearth – March dinner. An excellent meal despite the fact that Marco Canora wasn’t in the kitchen that night.

15. Alain Ducasse at the Essex House – Dec. 10, 2004. For the most part superb dining in an extremely elegant atmosphere. Several notable mis-steps keep it out of my top-ten, even though I had the truffle tasting menu.

Honorable Mentions:

Best Chinese: Grand Sichuan International – May 19th dinner. Excellent food, although the overall experience was not enough to crack this list. New Green Bo and No. 1 Dumpling House are worthy mentions as well.

Sripraphai - December 13th dinner. Excellent food, perhaps the best Thai I have ever had. It certainly blew away my experience at

Franny's – December 15th dinner. Truly superb food, although overpriced.

Chez Sophie – Multiple dinner. Consistently excellent food. It is totally reliable in my neck of the woods.

Txoco in Getaria October 3 lunch. fresh Grilled Fish alfresco on a beautiful day by the seashore. It is hard to beat that. In another year this is near the top.

Cinc Sentits September 28th dinner. This had potential for a higher ranking if I wasn't already so full before I got there. This is a totally charming restaurant with beautiful and tasty creative cuisine in a lovely Barcelona neighborhood setting.

Totonno's Coney Island May 14th lunch. This was part of the NYC Pizza Survey and superb pizze they were. This was a thoroughly enjoyable day.

Biggest Disappointment:

Jean-Georges – March dinner. This was a disaster, but not so much due to the food as a botched reservation. We were supposed to have a table for eight in the Main Dining Room, but they wound up putting us in Nougatine in fairly cramped quarters. They did wind up letting us order the tasting menu for everyone from the main dining room. The problem was that it didn’t appeal to everyone’s taste and after the initial table debacle, things got ugly.

Yours?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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This has been a long year for me - and sometimes I get 2003 and 2004 mixed up. But upon reflection - I have to say that my absolute best high end meals in 2004 were in London - Gordon Ramsay and Tom Aikens (in that order). I also ate at Per Se and David Burke & Donatella in New York. Rank the London places higher than the New York places - and - although the food at Per Se was more refined than the food at DB&D - I enjoyed the meal at DB&D better (it was just a more fun place).

In terms of going over your list - I also ate at Babbo this year - and had exactly the opposite experience of yours (disappointing food - terrific service).

What are you planning to try in 2005? I'm in the process of planning a trip to Asia (mostly Japan with Hong Kong) in the fall so I'm reading about a lot of new territory - foodwise and otherwise (for me). If you enjoyed high end sushi or other high end Japanese food in New York - you might consider heading west in 2005 - at least to the west coast of the US and Canada - perhaps to Hawaii - and even perhaps to points further west (like Japan :smile: ). Robyn

P.S. Do you know why you and others got sick the evening after you dined at your #1 restaurant? I never could take huge doses of rich food without ill effects - even when I was in my 20's. Now that I'm in my 50's - I really have to watch it. Perhaps that's why Japanese food appeals to me so much these days.

Edited by robyn (log)
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Well Doc and I share some of the same:

Arzak lunch in July

Cal Pep lunch in July- although this is hardly any type of fine dining it was the biggest eating adventure I've had!

Babbo dinner in July. I just said last night that I am planning on going to Babbo everytime I'm in nyc. I loved it!

Chez Panisse- dinner in Sept

Aqua- dinner in Sept

damn John your list has me very jealous!!

Edited by little ms foodie (log)
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I can't be sure why we got sick, although it would appear that some of us might have eaten something contaminated. Perhaps we had a pice of cheese rind that we shouldn't have? I don't really know. Despite that, I still consider it perhaps the meal of my life so far, in a virtual heat with Arzak.

For 2005, the meal I am looking forward to with greatest anticipation is El Bulli. I might try to build up some other great meals around it, but logistics and budget may interfere.

My other big trip will be to South Africa. That should be interesting culinarily. I may also visit Washington D.C., a place with a host of restaurants for which eGullet has piqued my interest. It has been too long since I have been back to nearby Montreal and I expect to frequent NYC revisiting some favorites as well as trying some new ones. I would love to get out west and to the Far East, though not this year (although I am sending my eldest son to China) :smile::wink:

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Well Doc and I share some of the same:

Arzak lunch in July

Cal Pep lunch in July- although this is hardly any type of fine dining it was the biggest eating adventure I've had!

Babbo dinner in July. I just said last night that I am planning on going to Babbo everytime I'm in nyc. I loved it!

Chez Panisse- dinner in Sept

Aqua- dinner in Sept

damn John your list has me very jealous!!

Wendy, You eat pretty well too. :raz::cool: I'm surprised you didn't put down any local faves. :shock: Seattle has some seriously good eating.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Well Doc and I share some of the same:

Arzak lunch in July

Cal Pep lunch in July- although this is hardly any type of fine dining it was the biggest eating adventure I've had!

Babbo dinner in July. I just said last night that I am planning on going to Babbo everytime I'm in nyc. I loved it!

Chez Panisse- dinner in Sept

Aqua- dinner in Sept

damn John your list has me very jealous!!

Wendy,

Have you been to the Herb Farm just north of Seattle, in Woodinville? My brother lives there, and hasn't been yet. When I get out to visit, we're hoping to go.

My best meal of 2004 was Rosa Mexicana in NYC, also Clio, Mistral, and Radius in Boston.

Am hoping to get to Per Se this year

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Tasting menu at Blais in Atlanta

Spring meal at Chez Panisse, Berkeley, California

Labor Day tasting menu at Manresa, Los Gatos, California

Dinner at Peninsula Grill in Charleston, SC

Last week tasting menu at the Dining Room at the Ritz Carleton, Buckhead, Atlanta

(and in between? lots of places who advertise "all you can eat" ... :laugh: )

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Wendy, You eat pretty well too.  I'm surprised you didn't put down any local faves.  Seattle has some seriously good eating.

yes and we have eaten very well in Seattle this year, I just don't think they are quite on the same level though.

But dinner at Brasa with Anthony Bourdain was really fun! And just recently dinner at Le Gourmand made me very happy!!

Have you been to the Herb Farm just north of Seattle, in Woodinville?

I haven't been yet but of course it is known to be sooo good. The trek is a long one for us, especially with a few glasses of wine. You need to make reservations a few months in advance so plan accordingly.

We are headed to Napa this march and I am going to try my best to get us a seat at the French Laundry, that will make my year for sure!

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27 course tour de force at trio on my birthday

2 twenty course gtm dinners at moto

16 courses at tru

17 courses at blais in atlanta

14 courses at bazzaar under chef blais

12 courses at tristan in charleston with chef jimmy sneed

5 day tasting menu bing in charleston (mcrady's, peninsula grill)

10 course tasting at canoe in atlanta

unbelievable lunch at le bernardin and cafe boulud

in no particular order of course

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I'm hoping to make a visit to Chicago when Alinea opens . I would like to visit Alinea and Moto. I didn't include them earlier for an anticipated 2005 list because as of yet I have no specific plans.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Wish I had the money to eat like that as often as some of you do!

Best meal I had all year (and I'm surprised I've never seen them mentioned here) was at Mas in the West Village.

It was my birthday treat, and good god, it was fantastic.

Some memorable sushi experiences as well (go to Zutto in Tribeca. Just as yummy as Nobu, and no rediculous wait. Zutto is affordable enough to do once a week, and I can't say the same for Nobu).

Some friends who work for a certain unpopular big name chef have been very generous with both the buy backs and the on the sly tasting menus, so whoo hoo to them. Have to say I think his food is slipping, though.

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My top ten is mostly DC oriented, with a little New York and Las Vegas thrown in:

1 - Per Se - nearly perfect anniversary gift to ourselves - food and service both better than French Laundry (NY)

2 - Maestro - birthday dinner that way surpassed expectations (DC)

3 - Bradley Ogden - Just very good food (LV)

4 - Babbo - Pasta Tasting Menu - I wish this was in DC(NY)

5 - Yanyu - tasting menu - amazingly during Restaurant Week (DC)

6 - Ray's the Steaks - steak that was even better than #7 (DC)

7 - Peter Luger's - Just for the Steak itself (NY)

8 - Colvin Run Tavern - Our best office Christmas party yet (DC)

9 - Firefly - Just last week and every dish was better than the last (DC)

10 - Inn at Little Washington - I'll give this one the benefit of the doubt. My wife and I got sick the next day from the bed and breakfast so I have put the meal from Inn out of my mind too. I'm sure it was all very good though.

Edited by bilrus (log)

Bill Russell

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Firefly is one of the restaurants in DC I hope to get to if I get down there. Others I would like to try include Citronelle and any of the Andres restaurants. ray's the Steaks could be interesting too. I'm not too familiar with Maestro or Yanyu, but you have piqued my interest there as well.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Firefly is one of the restaurants in DC I hope to get to if I get down there. Others I would like to try include Citronelle and any of the Andres restaurants. ray's the Steaks could be interesting too. I'm not too familiar with Maestro or Yanyu, but you have piqued my interest there as well.

I think they're all good choices and would provide a good mix of haute and neighborhood places.

Maestro is generally considered to be in the same league as Citronelle in the top three or four in the DC area. It is located in a very elegant room with an open kitchen at the Ritz Carlton at Tyson's Corner Virginia (basically Northern Virginia's downtown). The Chef, Fabio Trabocchi was nominated for a Beard best new chef award two years ago. Citronelle and Maestro are both as good as any place I have eaten, with the possible exception of Per Se.

Yanyu is a not quite in that league, but is a good little pan-Asian/Chinese place. They have several tasting menus that run year-round, not just Restaurant week. In fact I had a good New Year's eve meal there this year (although not quite the equal of the RW meal). Rumors have been circulating that they may be shifting to less upscale aspirations.

Bill Russell

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By far my best meal of the year -- and probably the best meal of my life -- was at the Li Family Restaurant in Beijing.

Choosing the second best is difficult. Old Shanghai Moon (in Shanghai) is a good candidate.

Other delicious meals were at the late Union Pacific, Lupa, Tanoreen, L'Impero, Bianca, a bunch of times at Spicy & Tasty, starting with this post, and twice at a delicious neighborhood restaurant in Beijing that I frustratingly can't find any information about. It's very difficult for me to rank these meals in some kind of order, but they all belong on this list.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I will admit that the ranking is a bit but not totally arbitrary and reflects my memories and sensibilities at this time. Each of the meals I listed above were special to me in their own ways.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Dinner at Per Se in late July. I still find myself thinking about some of the courses.

Dinner at The Box Tree for Blovie's birthday last January. Alas, the restaurant is no longer. But it was the most elegant and best dining experience I've ever had in a kosher restaurant.

Lunch at Solo in October. My expectations were low, but we had an amazing lunch.

I'm looking forward to going back to Per Se in 2005 as well as Charlie Trotter's as yet unnamed retaurant in TWC.

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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ceviche from "resaca" in guayaquil, ecuador.

my birthday dinner at lark in seattle

small plates in london somewhere in the theater district

anniversary dinner at union in seattle

my first palace kitchen (seattle) hamburger after renouncing 5 years of vegetarianism.

falafel from "world's best falafel" in paris. eaten while perched on a narrow stone ledge in front of an apartment building.

all eaten with my favorite person in the world.

from overheard in new york:

Kid #1: Paper beats rock. BAM! Your rock is blowed up!

Kid #2: "Bam" doesn't blow up, "bam" makes it spicy. Now I got a SPICY ROCK! You can't defeat that!

--6 Train

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My top list last year in no particular order:

Blue Hill at Stone Barns (September) - satisfaction in all ways imaginable. A memorable night indeed.

Per Se (November) – Two or three dishes I still have dreams of.

Gramercy Tavern (March) - One of two trips I made this year, the second time around last October was unmemorable.

Gary Danko (SF in February) – sumptuous dinner but not across the line, incredible cheese plate, undistinguished desserts though.

Blue Hill NYC (November) – Not as satisfying as my experience at stone barns but still a pleasant one. My most memorable dessert experience this year, a reconstructed carrot cake.

Ryland Inn (May) – For my birthday, I loved the gardens.

Daniel (July) – My first time there, good, solid, but not spectacular.

Wallse (January) – Always consistent, always gratifying

Terra (Napa in August) – A wonderful and well deserved summer evening after 2 weeks of hiking in the California wilderness.

La Caravelle (February)– A nostalgic dinner a few weeks before they closed.

RM (January) – We were “sent” there for lunch after our reservations at Aureole were cancelled because of a power outage! Still haven’t been to Aureole…

My honorable mention goes to Sripraphai (first time there last year), Saul restaurant, Restaurant Nippon, 11 Madison, Chubo, Zaré (SF), Bouchon (Napa)

Worst meals were at Cafe des Artistes and 71 Clinton Fresh Food.

"A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg." Samuel Butler
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Best restaurant meals in 2004:

Sushi at Saito’s and Chiso’s

Wood-fired pizza at Pazzo’s, Tutta Bella, The High Life, and Il Fornaio

Chateau Briand at El Gaucho (Portland)

Shellfish platter at Oceanaire Seafood Room

Prawns and Chips at Spud (Greenlake)

Delmonico steak at The Metropolitan Grill

Chocolate Shake at Tully’s

Carnitas at Ooba Toobas (Redmond)

Carne Asada at Matador

Pork chops at Calypso

"Homer, he's out of control. He gave me a bad review. So my friend put a horse head on the bed. He ate the head and gave it a bad review! True Story." Luigi, The Simpsons

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I can't be sure why we got sick, although it would appear that some of us might have eaten something contaminated. Perhaps we had a pice of cheese rind that we shouldn't have? I don't really know. Despite that, I still consider it perhaps the meal of my life so far, in a virtual heat with Arzak.

For 2005, the meal I am looking forward to with greatest anticipation is El Bulli. I might try to build up some other great meals around it, but logistics and budget may interfere.

My other big trip will be to South Africa. That should be interesting culinarily. I may also visit Washington D.C., a place with a host of restaurants for which eGullet has piqued my interest. It has been too long since I have been back to nearby Montreal and I expect to frequent NYC revisiting some favorites as well as trying some new ones. I would love to get out west and to the Far East, though not this year (although I am sending my eldest son to China) :smile:  :wink:

Any place where I thought I might have eaten contaminated food wouldn't be high on my list. But that is my personal point of view.

If you're going back to Spain - on a budget (and who isn't on at least some kind of budget) - take a look at the Paradores (government run hotels - frequently attractive and historic - although not luxurious). My husband and I traveled in Spain before Spain was a place to go for food (we had good food - but in those days everything good was "asado") - and some of the Paradores we stayed in were among the highlights of our trip.

In terms of "reasonably close to the northeast Canada" - I prefer Toronto to Montreal for just about everything - including food. We try to get to Canada at least once every year or two to recycle some of the money Canadians dump in Florida every year :wink: . Robyn

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Here is a list of my Top 10 meals in 2004 (modified slightly from a post on another thread), in no particular order:

Trio (under Chef Achatz) - Evanston, IL (July)

--Glorious Tour de Force dinner which redefined my food universe

Green Zebra - Chicago, IL (July)

--Best new Chicago restaurant I tried in 2004

Opera - Chicago, IL (February)

--Substance, flash and panache

Carlos' Restaurant - Highwood, IL (December)

--Amazing journey of a meal, great service, a culinary force

Miramar Bistro - Highwood, IL (September)

--Excellent bistro fare on the north shore of Chicago. Who would have guessed?

Tex-Az Grill - Phoenix, AZ (March)

--Textbook TX Roadhouse food done right, by transplanted Texans

Cubs vs. White Sox bet/dinner cooked by guajolote (November)

--Cassoulet with home-made sausage & duck confit, chicken liver flan, squash soup...Wow!!!

Smoked Brisket at NeroW-fest - North Suburban Chicago (June)

--Patting my own back here. Best smoked brisket I've ever made or eaten.

Nuevo Leon - Chicago, IL (August)

--My favorite Mexican in Chicago. Stand-out meal in this past summer. NL never disappoints.

Sun Waa BBQ - Chicago, IL (March)

--Fantastic Chinese-style BBQ duck and ribs on Argyle Street

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Cubs vs. White Sox bet/dinner cooked by guajolote (November)

--Cassoulet with home-made sausage & duck confit, chicken liver flan, squash soup...Wow!!!

Smoked Brisket at NeroW-fest - North Suburban Chicago (June)

--Patting my own back here. Best smoked brisket I've ever made or eaten.

No fair! These aren't restaurant meals :raz: If I would have included home-made meals (especially those with eGullet friends), I'd still be composing my list :laugh:

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I can't be sure why we got sick, although it would appear that some of us might have eaten something contaminated. Perhaps we had a pice of cheese rind that we shouldn't have? I don't really know. Despite that, I still consider it perhaps the meal of my life so far, in a virtual heat with Arzak.

For 2005, the meal I am looking forward to with greatest anticipation is El Bulli. I might try to build up some other great meals around it, but logistics and budget may interfere.

My other big trip will be to South Africa. That should be interesting culinarily. I may also visit Washington D.C., a place with a host of restaurants for which eGullet has piqued my interest. It has been too long since I have been back to nearby Montreal and I expect to frequent NYC revisiting some favorites as well as trying some new ones. I would love to get out west and to the Far East, though not this year (although I am sending my eldest son to China) :smile:  :wink:

Any place where I thought I might have eaten contaminated food wouldn't be high on my list. But that is my personal point of view.

Normally, I wouldn't either, but this meal was sooo good and since there was no clear source I still give it the benefit of the doubt. To do otherwise would almost be tragic.
If you're going back to Spain - on a budget (and who isn't on at least some kind of budget) - take a look at the Paradores (government run hotels - frequently attractive and historic - although not luxurious).  My husband and I traveled in Spain before Spain was a place to go for food (we had good food - but in those days everything good was "asado") - and some of the Paradores we stayed in were among the highlights of our trip.

Your key statement, "before Spain was a place to go for food" says it all. I, too have stayed in Paradores before the Spanish food revolution. While they are often beautiful buildings in cool locations the culinary aspects do leave something to be desired. Since Spain is now a culinary destination and that is one of my principle interests in traveling there, I try to find a middle ground - a nice place to stay with which I can still dine at the restaurants of my choice.

In terms of "reasonably close to the northeast Canada" - I prefer Toronto to Montreal for just about everything - including food.  We try to get to Canada at least once every year or two to recycle some of the money Canadians dump in Florida every year  :wink: .  Robyn

I love Toronto as well, but not only is Montreal significantly more convenient for me (2 hours by car), the language makes me feel like I'm on another continent.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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